Monday, September 12, 2016

Loneliness in the Middle Kingdom

When I was young, single and a recent college graduate trying to figure out how to live in Seattle, I was blind to all the blessings I had.  I was preoccupied with blessings I wanted and didn't have.  I spent a lot of time praying for wisdom about being unmarried, doing well at my job and how to plan a budget.  It was a time of transitioning.  It was a short time of transitioning, because within a few years I was transitioning into being engaged and then into marriage. But I was transitioning into what I anticipated would be a lifelong of being single and pursuing a career.

I didn't see anything or anyone in my horizon that would be adjusting what I found to be my reality at the time.  And the reality was a lot of loneliness.  I had friends--dear, dear, wise and supportive friends.  However, it wasn't lost on me that I was on my own.   As much as I relished the independence, I wanted to share life with someone.  And I was surprised how loneliness can make a girl desperate for attention.  I got attention, more than I deserved.  Men approached me at the bus stop, the grocery store and the coffee shop.  Sometimes at work.  Most of the time, it was a nuisance. But after a year, it started to look like a source of possibility.  I had one business card in my coat pocket for a few days before I threw it away.  A few days longer than usual. 

After a day of fighting temptation to not accept attention from a guy at work, I pulled into my driveway and asked God why not.  The days were long and grimy, and I was getting tired of handling responsibility for myself and others all by myself.  The pressure finally sent me over the edge into a prayer of lamentation and tears.  "How long? How much longer before I find the godly man You approve of? What's wrong with just dating this guy?"  It didn't take long for me to see my selfishness.  I wanted what I wanted.  I was getting tired of being a Christian and giving up my desires and fighting temptation.  And I was tired of being tired.  I was tired of wanting to give up.

I had my bible in the car, and turned to Proverbs.  How did I sink this low?  Was I willing to be a fool, chasing after what I thought would bring happiness and end up worse than I am right now? 

Maybe loneliness isn't so bad after all. But I wanted something more than a resignation to do the right thing.  I wanted to be happy to do God's will.  When I got to Proverbs 3, it was as though my Father in Heaven was reaching out to me through verses 1-2.  "My son, forget not my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days, and years of life and peace will be added unto you."  Furthermore, I was encouraged to write them on the tablet of my heart and bind them around my neck.  Keeping my Father's commandments was for my health, for my good. He cared about me, loved me and would help me keep going.  I wasn't as alone as I thought. 

It was not a small reassurance.  It was the right word for me at the right time. I would be and could be, by grace, the Father's treasured daughter willing to display a family resemblance in the choices I made.  I was not a slave of my own desires, but free to honor and fear the God who sacrificed His Son on our behalf.  When I got out of my car, I was more sure of His love and care than I ever was before.  Things did not get easier, but I felt stronger. 

And I didn't stop feeling lonely. Instead of dreading it or trying to avoid it, I accepted God's sovereignty over my life and consequentially, I found peace. God is good and in control. That attitude kept me from making decisions that would lead me to compromise out of desperation.  It helped me wait for love for the right man at the right time.  It did lead me to the kind of contented life Proverbs 3 pointed me towards.

The lessons and the testing about loneliness aren't over yet.  I think over time it has driven me to Scripture and to the Lord for deeper resources of peace every day and every year.  The process of aging pretty much promises that I will need it.

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